Vikings Playmakers Rank High in Leaguewide Comparison

Sep 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings roster has strengths and weaknesses. The playmakers on the offensive side are one of the strengths. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell ranked all 32 NFL teams according to their offensive skill position players.

The rankings consider running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. Barnwell gave each team an average quarterback, offensive linemen, and coach. So in this experiment, it doesn’t matter if the starting quarterback is Geno Smith or Patrick Mahomes, and it doesn’t matter if Andy Reid is calling plays or a first-time play caller. The Vikings are ranked pretty high in the league-wide comparison of playmakers, while the division rivals are among the league´s worst. The Bears are 31st, the Packers 29th, and the Lions 17th.

Vikings Have 4th Best Playmakers

Barnwell ranked the Vikings playmakers 5th in 2021 and 17th in 2020, which came obviously between trading away Stefon Diggs in 2020 and the rise of Justin Jefferson.

One of the great mysteries of the 21st century will be why the Vikings waited until Week 3 of his 2020 rookie season to start Justin Jefferson. Since entering the lineup that week, Jefferson leads all NFL players with 2,946 receiving yards. The only wideouts to average more yards per target over that stretch are Davante Adams and Deebo Samuel. Jefferson combines remarkable efficiency with relentless volume, and if reports are correct, his role in the offense might grow further under new coach Kevin O’Connell in 2022.

Bill Barnwell, ESPN
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Nov 16, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports.

Jefferson is arguably the best receiver in the league. He ranked himself second, only behind Davante Adams, and no list should have him outside of the top five. The remarkable talent even leads the league in receiving yards if the first two games of the 2020 season are included with 3,016 yards. Jefferson is the total package and combines speed, route running ability, and a great football IQ. Barnwell starts to talk about the other weapons in the Vikings’ offense:

Dalvin Cook is a known quantity as a running back who will miss a handful of games each season and play at a high level otherwise. Alexander Mattison has been a solid backup, although he wasn’t as effective in 2021. The Vikings will also get back Irv Smith Jr. after the tight end missed all of 2021 with a torn meniscus, while K.J. Osborn has been a solid third wideout and should feature regularly in 2022.

Cook’s injuries are a big problem for the Vikings. He missed 13 games in the last four seasons and never played more than 14 in one campaign. In 2021, he struggled with a sprained ankle and later injured his shoulder, and while Mattison is a solid backup, the Vikings miss their dynamic playmaker whenever he’s inactive.

The Irv Smith breakout season is an annual expectation. In his first three seasons, it didn’t happen. At first because of Kyle Rudolph’s presence and then because of injury. He could add another dimension to Kevin O’Connell’s new offense.

What We Have Learned From Vikings OTAs
K.J. Osborn

K.J. Osborn has shown to be a capable third receiver. The goal for him has to be to become even more than that. It’s still a question if he can be the second receiver to Jefferson, but his 655-yard, seven touchdown campaign was impressive.

For most teams, the biggest question is a young player. Here, it’s 31-year-old wideout Adam Thielen, who is now three years removed from his last 1,000-yard campaign and missed time in December with a left high ankle sprain. Thielen returned from the injury and immediately reaggravated the ailment, which is even more worrisome. Similar high ankle sprains have felled in the past veterans such as Michael Thomas, Roddy White and Mohamed Sanu, so while the hope has to be that Thielen returns at his prior level of play in 2022, I’m more than a little concerned.

Bill Barnwell, ESPN

Thielen didn’t play every game in a season since 2018. It was also his last season in which he managed to get 1,000 receiving yards. The high ankle sprain is concerning, but he was full go in OTAs. It should not be an issue. None of his injuries are concerning long-term. A decline is a possibility, but he could also get back to his old strength.

Kevin O’Connell has to find a way to make the offense an elite one in the NFL.

Who Has the Best Playmakers?

The 49ers playmakers rank just above the Vikings. Deebo Samuel was great in 2021 as a receiver/running back hybrid. George Kittle is an elite tight end. He might even be the best. Brandon Aiyuk was a mixed bag so far in his career. He can go from great to benched within one week.

Second are the Raiders. They’ve traded for Davante Adams, who might be the best receiver in the NFL. They also have a dynamic tight end, Darren Waller. Hunter Renfrow doesn’t have elite power or speed, but his ability to get open is incredible. He is one of the best WR2s in the league. Kenyan Drake and Josh Jacobs build a good running back duo.

The Cincinnati Bengals have the best set of playmakers in the league. Quarterback Joe Burrow can throw to Ja’Marr Chase, who looked like a generational talent in his rookie campaign. Tee Higgins is probably the best second wide receiver in the NFL, and then there’s still Tyler Boyd, who is another excellent target. Running back Joe Mixon completes a special group of players.



Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt

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